Farmers markets have a reputation for being expensive. A lot of the items for sale are typically organic and local, meaning vendors can demand a premium for them. But there are some tricks to saving a bit of money at farmers markets, just like there are tricks for saving money at a grocery store. Here are seven things you can try next weekend.
1. Go late
Heading to the farmers market early in the morning will get you the best pick of everything the vendors have to offer, just like an early trip to the grocery store. But unlike the grocery store, if you wait until an hour or so before the market closes, you have a better chance of getting some good deals on the produce and other items the vendors don’t want to pack up and take home. If they don’t offer you a discount, hold off, circle the stalls and try again just before they pack up. You can often cut your costs in half.
2. Ask for discounts
If it’s getting close to the time they pack up and they haven’t offered you a discounted price, go ahead and make them a lower offer. If the tomatoes are marked as $4, it’s easy to say “I’ll take those off your hands for $2.50 so you don’t have to pack them up.” You’re not exactly asking for a discount, and chances are they’ll take your offer or counter it.
3. Get to know the vendors
Going to the market late also gives you a chance to chat a little more with the vendors since most people have already come and gone. Ask about their operations, what if any special products they’ll have in the coming weeks. The more often you visit (and the better they recognize you) the better your chances for scoring a discount or some little extras. Also be sure to ask whether they allow visitors at the farm (or where they produce their candles, jams, etc.).
4. Visit the farms
If they do allow visits, take some time to go on a tour. It can be a fun family outing, especially if you take a picnic (or if they offer foods at the farm) and make a day of it. Be sure to mention you found them at your local market and name the person you spoke with there. It’s all about making a personal connection that could lead to specials, discounts and even freebies. (Speaking of which, we've rounded up some of the best summer freebies here.)
5. Buy the 'ugly' food
Are the greens wilted from sitting in the summer heat? See if you can talk the vendor down. Are the peaches a little beat up? Ditto. Gravitate toward produce you’ll need to use that day and see if you can get it for cheaper than it's marked.
6. Avoid the extras
Sure, there are tempting nibbly bits and drinks at the farmers market. Sometimes there are even lovely handmade products, but these artisanal items tend to come at a greater cost than you can find elsewhere. And you can bring your own snacks and a water bottle if you think you’ll get hungry and thirsty. Stick to the fresh food items if you’re serious about saving money.
7. Take cash
Farmers markets vendors are more and more likely to accept credit cards these days, thanks to the mobile technology that makes it easy for them, but it still costs them to do so and they may pass that cost on to you. Take cash and be sure and ask if there’s a discount for paying with it. They may not offer the small price drop if you don’t ask.
If organic and artisanal foods are your fav — but hard on your budget — we've got some hacks for saving at Whole Foods, post-Amazon acquisition edition here.